SetlistPleased To Meet You / Fine / Waltzing Along / Sometimes / Senorita / Destiny Calling / She's A Star / English Beefcake / Laid / Falling Down / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Vervaceous / Just Like Fred Astaire / I Know What I'm Here For / Ring The Bells / Space / Johnny Yen / Say Something / Born of Frustration / Sit Down
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A review written over five months after the event is never going to be the most factual of accounts. But given the fact that I have only discovered this web-site in the past week, which has coincided with my attendance at the Manchester gig, I thought my memories might be worth a place somewhere. Even if nostalgia is the only real product.
I’ll say it now. Kings Dock was the best concert I have ever been to. Maybe it was the lack of expectation. In fact, it WAS the lack of expectation. I’d seen James before on a number of occasions but this one-off (as part of Liverpool’s Summer Pops season) had passed me by until a week before when I spotted an advert in the Liverpool Echo and phoned for tickets. Chance is a fine thing.
The setting was a “Big Top” on the Kings Dock, next to the more famous Albert Dock. Basically, a tent in a car park. Inside however there was a small arena (3000 people?). The reasonably low swung “top” made for an inviting, warm welcome into the darkness from what has been a gorgeous summer’s day.
This was Sunday and “Pleased to Meet You” had only been released on the Monday. A few reels round the car stereo was all I knew of it, but already I had my favourites. James opened the show with the title track and through the night played about eight songs from the album. “Have you done your homework?” was Tim’s question and he also apologised for the band’s indulgence in playing so many songs from the album, “We thought we’d made a great album and the critics have panned it.”
No apology needed of course. Highlights from the new album included “Senorita” a song about “Sexual obession” according to Tim. The end-jam from “English Beefcake” was absolutely mesmerising as the sound filled the tent and swept across the arena.
My personal highlight was the first song not from the new album. We had all listened carefully to the new tracks but were waiting for a classic. Tim said quietly, “Back on familiar ground now. Happy song” and the band launched into “Waltzing Along”. The crowd went berserk and the atmosphere remained on that high for the rest of the show. As part of the encore James did the longest version of Johnny Yen I’ve heard which was clearly unfamiliar to a fair few of the audience. Still, eight minutes later they were all jumping around, as was a dreadlocked stage-invader who Tim moved and shook with in unison.
It’s hard to put a finger on the atmosphere, other than to say it was truly intimate. About five songs in Tim said, “I can tell it’s going to be one of those nights”. It was. There were a lot of kids around 12 or 13 years old in the audience, perhaps products of an early 1990s conception that reminded their parents of a happy time? All were ushered to the front for a good view, in the same way youngsters used to stand at the front of football terraces. Meanwhile everyone else got on with having a great time, the sort of time where you grin at strangers and all raise your hands at the same time in the same way. The “Johnny Yen” encore took the show way past 11pm (it had started at 9pm) but one song was still missing from the set list.
Saul returned on stage saying something along the lines of, “They’re saying we’ve got to finish, but we’re breaking the curfew.” Cue “Sit Down” at pace. Everyone lit up in bright yellow. Scallies wandering around who had nipped in from outside for the last number. Beer everywhere. Arms around the security men. Massive sing-a-long.
No expectations had become great celebrations. Isn’t it always the way?